Peril and Adnate were the just finishing their work around 6:15pm on Friday 29th November. Paris’s piece was cutting into Adnate at the other end and now Peril was asking Adnate to do a bit of fill with over-spraying just under his piece. There were lots of collaborations in Hosier Lane its side branch, Rutledge Lane. For weeks 120 artists, 11 crews, of Melbourne’s best graffers and street artists went a painting all the walls. All the walls? Yes, all your walls.
At 6pm the public had been invited to view the results and this was a Hosier Lane like you have never seen it before – All Your Walls is part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition Melbourne Now. Two bloggers, Dean Sunshine (Land of Sunshine) and Fletcher Anderson (Invurt) along with Toby (Just Another Agency and who formerly ran 696) organized the event.
Fletch Anderson’s eyes light up when he talks about Melbourne’s street art. He really believes that he is living in the right place at the right time in art history. He really believes that Melbourne’s street art is up there with New York, Sao Paulo, Berlin and Los Angeles. Fletch (aka Factor) is such a believer that he made his dream come true. There were teenagers and old school old hands all painting together. Dean Sunshine told me that there were crews that absolutely hated each other painting at the same time in Hosier Lane. There were no beefs between the street artists and the graff crews.
“No bullshit, no politics, no problems.” Fletch gives a great quotes when inspired by his vision of an urban paradise of paint.
Hosier Lane was closed off to traffic for the evening. Normally there are a lot of people walking around taking photographs in the lane but this evening capped them all. There were artists, academics, art collectors, hoodie-wearing people, office workers on their way home, residents, street artists showing their kids their work and people who use the social services located in the lane.
The lane got its name because it was originally part of the Melbourne’s garment district. Now the former rag trade warehouses in the area have now been converted to gallery spaces and apartments and the laneway’s walls are Melbourne’s iconic centre for graffiti and street art.
It would have been an urban paradise evening if it weren’t for the freezing cold wind that was ripping through Melbourne. It is hard to be convivial with all these fine people when the cold is rising from the old bluestone cobbles.
In completely repainting the lane they started with an undercoat of black, buffing all previous work in both Hosier and Rutledge. Black… I said something about this colour in my review of Melbourne Now. There is a stencil quote on the laneways from Leonardo da Vinci advocating black as an underpainting. This was followed by scissor lifts and repeating of the upper levels and finally the lower levels, the areas assigned to various artists marked on the wall.
It is not just aerosol art; there are plenty of paste-ups and installations. Junky Projects has attached an enormous work of junk art to the wall, a Dada/Futurist wet dream. It is one of his largest and most abstract works yet. Lego construction workers by Pop Gun (or “Pop Cap”?) stand on a miniature beam high up on the laneway’s wall. Phoenix has a large cluster of political paste-ups and his Dali butterflies up on the walls.
In 2010 people speculated what would happen to Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane post-Amac when long time resident and un-official curator of the lane, the cowboy hat wearing, Andy Mac (aka Amac) moved out. They were concerned and had good reasons to be Amac had been there in the 1990s at the start of the graffiti and street art in the lane. He added to the lane with the Citylights Project light-boxes and Until Never gallery. Amac was there to tell writers not to tag significant pieces and he organized the painting other pieces.
Post-Amac there were a few problems in the lane – CCTV, RIP Jill Meagher, and endless angry capping. Some people may even consider Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue as one of the problems but it really cleared the way for All Your Walls. In his piece, Calm comments on Empty Nursery Blue with a gnu buffing with blue.
The problems in Hosier Lane have been solved with the good will of the residents, Hosier Inc., the City of Melbourne especially City Engineer, Gordon Harrison, the artists, bloggers, the Alley Chats group of interested parties… lots of people are concerned for this lane and its art.
Now the NGV have joined the party including All Your Walls in it’s Melbourne Now era defining exhibition. There have been major exhibitions of street art in major museums around the world but Hosier Lane offer the opportunity for the exhibition to come out of the gallery, and conveniently Hosier Lane is just across Flinders Street from the NGV at Fed Square.
All Your Walls is an era defining moment; it is the first time that all the walls of Hosier Lane have been painted before in such a co-ordinated effort with so many major crews, notable writers and artists. It creates Melbourne’s very own graffiti wall of fame. The major names in Melbourne’s street art scene now have work in Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane. In the past you would have to go to Brunswick or Fitzroy to see AWOL’s work, now it is up, high up in Hosier. Old school Melbourne aerosol writers, Paris and Peril and the KSA crew have not been forgotten.
This is going to have implications for the future; such a definitive exhibition promotes ossification. Artists were already talking maintaining their work, about keep their space in the lane as perpetual territory, and their plans to deal with taggers. There is more space between the pieces than there was in the past when the competition was so intense.
When it comes to the future of Melbourne’s street art and Hosier Lane I am not a visionary. I can’t see the future and make it happen but I do know that just as Melbourne Now is a must see exhibition, an era defining moment of Melbourne’s art history, so is All Your Walls.